By Zoe Samuel on April 26, 2018
The canon of English literature is one of the greatest legacies in our culture. It reaches back 1,500 years to the birth of the Anglo-Saxon tongue, and it draws on a multicultural, enormously diverse array of influences. English literature has borrowed content from Greek, Roman, Chinese, Norse, Germanic, French, Italian, Arabic, and other backgrounds, re-purposing the tales of the ancients for its own culture. It has also borrowed languages from around the world, though primarily Europe, blending together all sorts of sounds, suffixes, prefixes, and vocabulary to create one of the most versatile tongues ever spoken.
A good English teacher will give students a sense of the broader sweep of all this cultural heritage, while also teaching them how to analyze the great works to see how their authors achieved their goals. They will use some of the finest pieces of writing ever set to paper to illustrate how an author conveys a theme, how they deploy imagery, how they create characters, and which rules of structure they prefer. All of this not only trains the human mind to think better in all fields, it makes a person an incredibly good reader, able to parse out meaning and communicate ideas more effectively. Being extremely literate is thus arguably the single most important skill you gain in school. Let's see if you remember the building blocks.